UAMS Sees Health Care Work Force Shortages Worsening

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – An aging population in Arkansas will compound existing health care work force shortages in the coming years, according to a report issued today by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), which continues to expand enrollment and examine additional solutions to address the growing problem.


The report comes as a delegation that includes representatives from UAMS and the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees this week visits the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Kan., a satellite campus of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Lawrence, Kan. A satellite campus is one potential avenue for UAMS to further expand enrollment and produce more health care professionals.


An already rising demand for health care, along with the retirement of the baby boomer generation – the oldest of which turn 60 this year – could overburden a health care system that already does not have enough doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, according to the UAMS Report: Meeting Arkansas’ Health Care Work Force Needs. By 2025, Arkansas is expected to have one of the highest percentages of residents 65 or older in the United States, said the report now available online at


“The population factor and work force shortages will significantly impact our health care system in the next 10 to 20 years,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “We are already expanding our enrollment and facilities as much as we can and considering what additional changes – such as a second UAMS campus – are necessary to meet our education and work force goals.”


On Monday, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) cited growing evidence of a physician shortage and recommended a 30 percent increase in enrollment at the country’s medical schools by 2015. UAMS has planned for a 20.4 percent increase in medical school enrollment from 2005 to 2010.


The association pointed to the same factors mentioned in the UAMS report as reasons behind the shortage: an aging population, increased demand for health care and an aging physician work force. The UAMS report noted that Arkansas mirrored the population and national work force trends. The work force shortages may have a greater impact in the state, though, since Arkansas already has an older and unhealthier population.


Work force shortages force hospitals and clinics to make staffing and operational decisions that impact patient care by causing crowded emergency departments, longer waits for treatment or reduced hours of operation.


A 2003 assessment of Arkansas health care work force needs by UAMS researchers showed more than 3,300 vacancies in 79 health professions at the 341 facilities responding to the survey. The number of vacancies is expected to more than double by 2007, the survey reported.


As Arkansas’ only comprehensive academic health sciences campus, UAMS is committed to meeting the states health care work force needs. UAMS has produced most of Arkansas’ doctors and many of its nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals. With its network of Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), the Institute on Aging satellite centers, its Regional Programs, its Rural Hospital Program, the Kids First series of child care programs and other services, UAMS reaches across the state, providing education, patient care and community services.


From 2000 to 2005, enrollment at UAMS grew by 25 percent, to a total of 2,328 students. By 2010, UAMS has set the goal of increasing enrollment by another almost 22 percent increase. That increase included an almost 23 percent increase in medical school enrollment since 2000. To continue increasing its enrollment to meet work force needs, new faculty and facilities will be needed, Wilson said.


UAMS is involved now in a $265 million campus expansion, focused mainly on a major addition to the UAMS Medical Center. The expansion improves patient care as many programs have outgrown the original 50-year-old hospital. The hospital also provides clinical education for medical residents and students in other UAMS programs.


However, the campus expansion cannot provide space for graduating enough new health care professionals, the chancellor said. A satellite campus in another part of Arkansas would allow UAMS to accept more students. Factors to be considered when deciding where to locate a second campus include population growth and the availability of hospitals and health care facilities for providing clinical education to students.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 9,300 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit